Skip to main content

Reduce, reuse, and recycle cardboard at home

Cardboard, a heavy-duty material that comes in handy for everything from shipping packages to moving your items, rarely needs to be tossed in the trash. “Most cardboard is recyclable, as long as it is clean and dry!” says Marci Zaroff, founder of ECOFashion Corp, tells 21Oak. This is a good thing, seeing as though landfills in the United States don’t need any more junk. While the majority of your scraps, boxes, signs, and other cardboard items can be tossed in your recycling bin, there are a variety of other things you can do with them.

Man holding a bag of recycled paper
Krakenimages.com/Shutterstock

What are the different types of cardboard?

There are two main types of cardboard, and both can be recycled along certain guidelines, explains Gay Browne, personal environmental health advisor and founder of Greenopia. The first is known as corrugated cardboard, which is typically used to make brown packing boxes. The other type is called paperboard (also known as chipboard). It is a single layer of grayish cardboard used to make items, such as cereal boxes, shoe boxes, and other packages.

Recommended Videos

How to recycle cardboard via waste management

If you want to leave your cardboard out with your trash to be picked up, there are a few things to keep in mind. “Some waste-management companies require that cardboard boxes be flattened before collection,” says Browne. “It’s okay to leave tape, labels, and other items on the cardboard, as they’ll be removed at the recycling center. But you should take out any bubble wrap and other packing materials.”

Some companies also might require cardboard to be tied or taped together. “This usually is to prevent the wind from making a mess,” Browne adds.

What can’t you put in your recycling bin?

Some cardboard items — such as juice containers, milk cartons, and some produce boxes — are coated with wax or similar substances. This often affects their ability to be recycled, says Browne. “Some collectors also will not take cardboard or paperboard that’s wet,” she explains. “That’s because wetness weakens cardboard fibers and makes it less valuable for recycling centers. It also adds unnecessary weight to the cardboard that many centers don’t want to pay for.” Bottom line: It is wise to check with your local municipality on different recycling rules, as well.

Reuse/rebox

Zaroff points out that while reducing your cardboard intake is ideal, in today’s e-commerce world, it isn’t always a practical solution. Luckily, it is easy to reuse cardboard boxes “for storage, mock furniture for plants and accessories, reboxing your next outgoing shipment, Halloween costumes, and even for protest signage,” she suggests.

Give them to your children

It might be just a cardboard box to you, but it’s likely your kids can find 100 creative ways to use it, ranging from forts to doll houses. Cardboard can also come in useful for art projects. But even you can use it as a kid-friendly playroom storage solution.

Child playing in a cardboard box
Africa Studio/Shutterstock

Throw them in your compost

Another fun way to make use and reuse cardboard is to compost it, suggests Browne. “For the home gardeners out there, cardboard boxes can be added to your compost pile — as long as the cardboard hasn’t come into direct contact with inedible substances like cleaning or bathing supplies, which would taint the rest of the compost pile,” she explains.

Use them for storage

Who needs plastic bins when you have old cardboard boxes sitting around? Browne maintains that you can give your boxes new life by transforming them into stylish storage. “It can be as simple as using some fabric covers, and now you have some recycled cardboard storage boxes,” she says. You can also reuse shoe boxes, transforming them into a storage solution for your belts and even socks! “As you can see, there are numerous ways to creatively reuse cardboard boxes,” she points out.

Give them away

One person’s trash is another person’s treasure! While you might have zero need for your cardboard boxes, there are many people who do. In fact, purchasing cardboard boxes of various sizes is incredibly expensive — just check out the prices at your local shipping or hardware store. Therefore, you should have no problem finding someone who wants to take them off your hands. Craigslist is a great resource for this. Simply take a photo of your extra boxes and upload it onto Marketplace or even in any local group you are a member of. Within a day you should have a number of people who want to take them off your hands!

Editors' Recommendations

Leah Groth
Former Digital Trends Contributor
The best ornamental grasses to beautify your yard
From ground cover to privacy, these grasses offer a ton of benefits
Country garden with a variety of ornamental grasses

Ornamental grasses are nature's paintbrush, adding elegance, texture, and movement to any landscape. Whether you're aiming for a serene garden retreat or a vibrant outdoor space, these versatile plants can be tailored to suit your aesthetic preferences and functional needs. Let's explore some of the best varieties to elevate your outdoor environment.
Visually striking ornamental grasses for focal points

Some ornamental grasses are so visually striking that they can serve as the focal point of your garden design. Their unique colors, shapes, and textures command attention, adding drama and personality to the landscape. Here are a few that are sure to make a statement in your yard.
1. Purple millet
With its dramatic purple foliage and striking seed heads, purple millet (Pennisetum glaucum) is a show-stopping addition to any garden. This annual grass thrives in full sun and well-draining soil, making it perfect for adding a pop of color to borders, containers, or mixed plantings.
2. Dwarf pampas grass
Dwarf pampas grass (Cortaderia selloana "pumila") packs all the visual impact of its larger relatives into a more compact form, making it ideal for smaller gardens or containers. This perennial grass produces fluffy white plumes in late summer, adding a touch of elegance and interest.
3. Ravenna grass
Known for its towering stature and graceful arching foliage, Ravenna grass (Saccharum ravennae) creates a striking focal point in any landscape. This perennial grass thrives in sunny locations with well-draining soil and is drought tolerant once established, making it a low-maintenance choice for adding vertical interest to your yard.
Mounding ornamental grasses that add texture

Read more
These clever laundry room ideas will brighten up your space
Go from drab to fab in this functional home space
Washer and dryer in a modern, clean environment

Styling the laundry room often gets overlooked when it comes to home decor and design. However, with a bit of creativity and attention to detail, you can transform this functional space into a stylish and inviting area that makes the chore of doing laundry a little more enjoyable. Let's explore 14 clever laundry room ideas that will help brighten up your space and make doing laundry fun.
1. Incorporate gorgeous wood accents

Wood accents can add warmth and character to any space, including the laundry room. Consider adding wood trim, countertops, or cabinets to bring a touch of natural beauty to the room. Not only do wood accents look visually appealing, but they also add a sense of sophistication and elegance to the space.
2. Add an island

Read more
Board and batten: Your essential guide
How board and batten is different from traditional siding, shiplap, and wainscoting
Small red barn in the countryside

Whether you’re replacing your exterior siding or considering revamping your interiors with paneling, you may have encountered the term "board and batten." Board and batten is a unique feature to add to any home, especially if you’re looking for a streamlined and modern aesthetic.

But what is board and batten? How is it different from traditional siding, shiplap, and wainscoting? Today, we'll discuss everything you need to know about board and batten so you can gain some inspiration for your next home improvement project.
What is board and batten?

Read more